Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Real, not whimsical.

If, like me, you're one of the many who came to this strange, twilit nether-land of interconnected webs, via flickr, you may remember the one time teen-sensation Eleanor Hardwick (or lenaah as she was once known on flickr).

I'm currently (and have been for what seems like a really long time) working on a film script who's central characters are teenagers, one wise and odd (but hopefully not in that annoying Juno kind of way) beyond her years and I find myself trying to constantly evoke that era and its emotions in my head.
Though Hardwick's imagery often follows the very zeitgeist-y thread of maturity mixed with childhood, embodied by so many editorials and blogs, there is also a true, powerful emotibal undertow in them. When modeling for herself Hardwick often appears wise beyond her meagre years; odd-looking in spite her pretty accoutrements. Sad in spite her whole life stretching brand new and shiny before her. Ten, fifteen years ago, she would have been the strange kid with a camera, just like Tavi Gevinson might have been just the girl who's style elicited the most snickers among her middle school peers.

Perhaps with time they could have become professional photographers, writers, or fashion editors, but it would have been years later, after college, the place that the odd girls mentor in the movies always promises is the place where she will be understood.

She might have been encouraged by some such well-meaning adult, an art teacher, a family friend, but most likely she would have remained the odd one out, just biding her time trough those years and their emotions. Obsessed and possessed by passions no one else would have seemed to understand.

I know, because I have been that girl, the one that read Iliad under her desk and wore 1930s dresses. That wanted to dress in fake fur coats like the one's she had seen in a Japanese magazine and drew stars on her face. That listened to the obscure bands from the library and wrote plays.
In this supercharged world of ours though, these girls can be found amidst their adolescence, using these new, accessible tools to articulate its delicate internal workings. The greatest gift the internet affords us might just be our ability to browse various lives, millions of them with a few clicks and hums. Never before has there been such a variety of human experience published for anyone and everyone to observe.

What is so appealing about Hardwick's photos (or Tavi's blog, or the high fashion adventure's of my beloved guilty pleasure Cory) is that you're not watching a simulacrum, a memory of an emotion, or an imitation, but the real deal, an actual person trapped in a teenager's body and trying to communicate their emotions to the world.
There is a certain point in one's teenage years when the world of many girls takes a similar shape; a moment when everything is painful and magical at the same time. It's a moment suspended somewhere between childhood and adulthood and to those in it, it seems to stretch on forever.

There is, one can almost say, a cultural demand for this moment right now, a nostalgia for the very nostalgia one feels during those precious few years that so shape our destiny as individuals. And while Hardwick's photos may epitomize that nostalgia, they are absolutely real. Their beauty works for them, not against them, making the ennui all the more poignant.

(I'm thinking of doing this to my hair, as a kind of last huzzah before sliding quietly to middle-age...)

Looking at them one feels overcome by a ghost of their former self, the one you left behind sometime between seventeen and twenty years-old, and who at the time you tried hard to forget.
Perhaps that is where the real appeal lies; knowing that they are still there and always have been.
(All photos by Eleanor Hardwick)


  1. What an inspirational post! I've often felt like that about teenage years and you've put it well here. I love these photos and I must check out that blog. Thanks for these, Milla!

  2. I know we connect because we've been that girl. It's such an interesting thing to be able to connect with someone because they know what it's like to be different, even though they are different from you.

    I'm interested in this screenplay, maybe one day you'll start releasing excerpts :)

    Lots of love

  3. I'm completely nostalgic for and drawn to that period in life too. Her photography is amazing as are your extremely insightful thoughts about it. I had taken notice of all the really incredible and YOUNG photographers on flickr and noticed that their was something really special about what they were doing but hadn't really thought about it in the sense that young artists have never really had the means of reaching people until they got older and like you said at that point this is all just a memory. Hmmm...

  4. Apparently, I'm drawn to the word "really" as well, haha.

  5. Oh the nostalgia! If I could just step back in time to those all-too-often, uncomfortable in my own skin and feeling out of place days, knowing what I know now! Geez, I wish I just let me be what I wanted to be, out in the open, for everyone to see!

    A wonderful post, indeed! This one hit home.

  6. They are beautiful photographs, but as for the nostalgia I'll pass. Those awkward years were the worst in my life and I hope never to revisit them. Life has only gotten better the closer to 30 I get.